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LEZs: Focus must be on cutting car use to deliver clean air

Published 28 November 2017 by Jamie Wylie

Transform Scotland has today responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the introduction of Low Emission Zones (LEZs).

The consultation comes after the Government’s announcement in the Programme for Government that four LEZs would come into force in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen by 2020. Glasgow will be the first city in Scotland to have an LEZ by the end of 2018.

In the response, Transform Scotland urged the Scottish Government and Local Authorities to focus on reducing the number of private vehicles, rather than singling out buses, for tackling air pollution. Achieving a modal shift away from private car use and towards walking, cycling and public transport is vital for delivering clean air and would bring wider benefits including reduced congestion, improved public health and reduced carbon emissions.

Commenting on LEZs, Colin Howden, Director of Transform Scotland, said:

We welcome the Government’s commitment to implement LEZs in the four biggest cities by 2020. LEZs are a vital tool for cutting air pollution, and are also useful in reducing carbon emissions by encouraging a shift away from private vehicles.

However, there needs to be immediate action in meeting the existing standards rather than the decades of procrastination and prevarication that has characterised Scottish Government and Local Authority approaches to the protection of human health.

It is imperative that the focus of LEZs is cars and not public transport. To tackle the illegal levels of air pollution in Scotland’s cities, LEZs must tackle single-occupant cars and vans. Indeed, other European cities, such as Oslo, are talking about banning cars from the their centres. Reducing private vehicle journeys has many wider benefits including reduced congestion, more efficient land use in towns and city centres, improved public health and improved road safety

It would be disappointing to see LEZs have a disproportionately negative effect on buses, given the role of buses in providing the vast majority of Scottish public transport journeys. It would be grievously counterproductive and damaging to focus LEZ policy on measures that would reduce the extent of the Scottish bus network. Buses should be seen as part of the solution to air pollution, not the problem.

To ensure that LEZs are successful, we’d like to see the Scottish Government financially incentivise Local Authorities. For example, it may be necessary to provide financial support in the introductory phase of LEZs, or for the introduction of technologies such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems.”

Transform’s full consultation response can be found here.